Parshas Tsav

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By Rabbi Shloimie Lindenbaum

אש תמיד תוקד על המזבח לא תכבה (פרק ו פסוק ו)

The Torah commands us to constantly have a fire burning on the מזבח. The משנה in אבות tells us that there was a miracle in the בית המקדש that even though the מזבח was outdoors, the rain never extinguished its fire. R’ Chaim Volozhiner in רוח חיים asks, why couldn’t Hashem arrange that the rain never fall on the מזבח, why did He orchestrate that the fire remained lit despite being rained on? R’ Chaim says that this was to teach us a lesson. People who are committed to serve Hashem properly will often experience difficulties, setbacks, and various trials. The fire on the מזבח is there to teach us that whatever difficult wind and rain is sent our way, we should always forge on and weather the storms. Sometimes we can feel that if we had less obligations and distractions in life then we would be able to serve Hashem properly, but in our current situation there is no way. The fire that got rained on but continued to burn serves as our reminder that our job is to continue serving Him even through all the difficulties.

במקום אשר תשחט העלה תשחט החטאת (פרק ו פסוק יח)

The קרבן עולה, which, according to the מדרש, atoned for improper thoughts, was slaughtered on the north side of the עזרה. The אבני נזר offered a hint to this, the term for the north is צפון, which can also mean hidden- it is atoning for thoughts that are מוצפן, hidden in a person. The problem is, however, that we are told to slaughter the חטאת in the same place as the עולה, and the חטאת is brought to atone for accidentally sinning by action. Why would that also be in the north? The son of the אבני נזר, the שם משמואל, answered that we have a tradition that when a person sins by mistake it is because deep within them, they have a desire to do that sin. If they would have the proper value for that sin, then they would not have done it even by accident. Only because they truly wish to commit the עבירה did they do it unintentionally. Therefore, when someone brings a חטאת, although they only bring it for an incorrect action, they must understand that they are trying to atone for their original hidden desire to do the sin with full intent. That is why the Torah tells us to bring the חטאת in the same place as the עולה- to reveal this commonality between them, that they both started with improper thoughts.

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